Our Tale Begins in Old Mystic
Photo given by Paul Duddy
By Maggie Favretti
I had known about JD Fontanella since he was a child (he is, after all, my third cousin) but we had seen each other maybe twice before I got an anxious phone call. "There is heavy equipment slogging around in the wetland here on Smith Street and they are cutting everything down." Call Candace Palmer, I said, she'll be the one to stop them. And so she did, just after they cut all the forest wetland shrubs and just before they were able to cut down the trees. They were slowed down by getting stuck in the mud.
After that, we learned that because of the "flush-cutting," the soil scientist hired by the developer (and trusted by the town) did not correctly identify the boundary of the seasonal wetland. In the spring, vernal pools fill up and the ground gets soggy from Quoketaug Hill run-off all the way to the playgrounds on Haley's Way. But off season, the poor guy could only see the standing water and hummocks of the wetland's much smaller winter shape.
Realizing that the rest of the neighborhood was just as upset about the no-penalty violation of a wetland that serves to protect Old Mystic and the Mystic River in a number of ways, and equally realizing that the Inland Wetland and Watercourses Commission usually hears permit requests without very much citizen input, we decided to put our heads together. We gathered some friends with more experience in this sort of thing than we had (shout out to fellow rowers and Groton residents Lynne Marshall and Kris Kuhn who stepped up and have been essential to the work of the Alliance ever since), did a ton of research, gathered and hired expert opinions, made sure lots of people filled the room, and turned all of it over to the Commission, who were empowered both by information and their civic responsibility to deny the application (at least the first time).
In the process, we got a civic and ecological education and are still asking questions. We hope you are as excited as we are about the possibilities that emerge when our town councils and commissions actually have the information they need and know how our citizens feel. We hope you are excited about how powerful Stonington, Groton, Ledyard, North Stonington and the Mashantucket and Eastern Pequot Nations can be when we all stick together in order to sustain the river who sustains us. Join in!